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  1. #1
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    Looking for advice for next season

    Wraped up my first season of sport class this weekend. I have struggled all year on the 3rd lap of aprox 20-25km race. I know the how to build endurance question has been asked a bunch, but I have been able to see a pattern in my vitals/legs.

    Im 6.0" 170lbs. Hard trail riding puts me around 170-175 for heart rate with a quick jump down to 130 if a stop for a min or two.

    Races go as follows.
    First lap is mostly burning legs with HR around 175-185. (Rarley does it hit 190) bear end ifbthe first lap I tend to slow a bit to conserve (i will get to the cramping issues in a bit) and stay between 170 and 176. 3rd lap i almost always cramp if there is alot of climbing. When legs are on the verge I naturally slow down and HR falls to 160-150. Every one is suprised I dont seem more tired but im going so slow I have completly recovered heart wise but legs are still shot.

    So the question is is it heart related that is causing the lack of blood/oxygen to the legs or is it the legs just not able to keep up with demand and te heart relaxes as i slow down(makes sence)

    I have cramped every race this year. I got faster from the first coiple races but didnt see much improvment for the last 5, finishing 5th in the last 4 races with the leaders nowhere to been seen.

    I have tried electrolytes and gels. In fact the best race i had (felt the best) was straigh water. Electrolytes were giving me gas during the race.

    Well hydrated before the race( clear urine and having to go every 30min it seems)

    I guess I want to be efficent about training next season and really have no idea where my problem is stemming from.

    Thanks and sorry for the long post.

  2. #2
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    Mind the errors, my phone lags so bad when I type I can be four words ahead of it at times and editing is a risky game on my iphone it seems.

  3. #3
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    There's nothing bad about being top 5 in cat2, that's not easy, there's plenty of guys who'd like to be there. What's your training like? hours etc? How many years have you been riding?, -stay fit through the winter?

  4. #4
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    are you doing any 3 to 4 hour rides at least once every other week? this is where road riding will benefit.

    i had cramping issues a few years ago. my issue was not enough hours on the bike.
    I just like riding my mountain bike.

  5. #5
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    Im not unhappy with my placing, just feel like I skated by as it wasnt a big class this year. Most rides I was alone as the top 3 where 10min ahead.

    I have only been riding for 2.5 years.
    Trainning is mabye a ride or two a week. I try to do a longer distance then my races but I know I dont get out enough. With the faster guys being forced up ( again)next year,there is a chance I will podium. I want to be ready for the expert cat before the season starts in case there is a mandatory.

    I dont think our sport is the same as your cat 2 (canda vs us) above me is still expert and then elite, which the pros race.

    Thanks for taking the time.

  6. #6
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    After making sure the water and electrolytes are good, any cramping issues left over are likely due to putting physical demands on the legs beyond what is experienced in training. In that case, you either have control your pacing during the race and/or put a little more high intensity effort into training.

    Everyone responds to training differently, but...What has helped me in regard to cramping is to incorporate some 'above race pace' intervals into the training mix once or twice a week starting about a month before the first race. This is hard to do when you are training alone (which i do), so I have to use a trainer with an erg mode that automatically increases resistance to match a specified power output. This can take me right to the verge of cramping during a 30 minute trainer session. It's a lot cheaper and more fun to find a training partner that you can ride with (against) to get effort above race pace for short periods.

    I am not a physio, but what i think this does is gets the muscle tissue used to hydrogen ion build-up due to anaerobic efforts...

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by bcaronongan View Post
    are you doing any 3 to 4 hour rides at least once every other week? this is where road riding will benefit.

    i had cramping issues a few years ago. my issue was not enough hours on the bike.
    No I am not. I am trying to save some money for a road bike, my terrain does not sllow for easy long rides. If i get out for 2 hours a week, thats good for me.

    Am I right in thinking, no matter how hard I ride for that 1.5h it wont replace the 3-4h rides at an easier pace?

  8. #8
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    I've had the same problem, although not every race. I've only done 4 races, but 2 of them were at the same place, and I cramped both times. It's not very technical but its fast with lots of short, steep climbs that add up and put a beating on your legs. I agree with stevemtu that it's probably a matter of the legs just not being able to handle it, rather than a hydration/nutrition issue.

  9. #9
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    An observation, and some questions.

    First, the observation: people at very similar fitness levels can have their landmark heart rates 20 bpm or more different from each other's. So the heart rate numbers you posted are just numbers, without more context.

    Do you use heart rate zones?
    Do you warm up before you race?

    I've read that one's heart's abilities actually don't have a ton to do with aerobic fitness once one has been training for a while. It has more than enough capacity, the problem is muscular composition. Basically more whether my legs can keep metabolizing nutrients and clearing lactic acid. Someone else will know how to explain this more rigorously, I'm sure.

    Anyway, it does sound like you're starting too fast for the rest of how you're doing things at the moment.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by machine4321 View Post
    Trainning is mabye a ride or two a week.
    This quote sums it up...

    To be competitive in Sport class and not bonk/cramp/blow up you need to ride more.

    Beginner races I used to do were one hour. Then once I upgraded to Sport the races were typically 1.5 to 2 hours. Yes, I cramped and suffered. Never cramped in a beginner race but suffered lots.

    Don't need a road bike. Ride your mountain bike everywhere/anywhere.

    It's just the way it is.

    I just like riding my mountain bike.

  11. #11
    mnoutain bkie rdier
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    Like others have said, you just gotta ride more...more miles...more time. Also, you will drop a few pounds perhaps (not that you are heavy), but being a little lighter might make you faster too!

    Good luck out there!

  12. #12
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    If you're finishing top 5 and just riding once or twice a week you are doing awesome. I was riding twice a week as of about a year ago, I found some motivation in December and started riding about 4-5 times per week, I made some large improvements and had surprisingly good race results. I doubt anybody near you in Cat2 is only riding once or twice per week, it's pretty unusual to do well with that little riding. Can you add a couple of days per week?, just adding short rides added mid-week will really help, even 30 min on the trainer so as to not go too long between rides.
    As for your weight; I think that if you step up your training and have a decent diet, your body will level off at a weight that is proper for you, -train and eat to get fast, not to lose weight.

  13. #13
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    I had huge cramping problems in my calves on lap 3 of Cat 2 MTB races prior to this season. I was sufficiently trained with 3+ hr rides every 1-2 weeks and about 6hrs of training per week. I tried electrolyte pills with little effect and tried hydrating with water as well. The ONLY thing that I've works for me is to pre-hydrate with ~22-44oz of Gatorade a few hrs leading up to the race and Gatorade during the race as well. Other sports drinks may work as well. Not sure why this works and not the electrolyte pill alone but the difference is dramatic. Maybe the combo of carbs and electrolytes has something to do with it?

  14. #14
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    The top guys are probably all riding 10+ hours per week. It is a great result to be in the top 5 with such little riding. I personally ride between 10-15 hours per week although that is mostly road. I am usually somewhere in the top 5 in Cat 2, but my biggest pitfall is technical skills. I definitely have the fitness and power to ride Cat 1.

  15. #15
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    I was able to get consistent podiums in cat2 the 5 race series I did last winter/spring (two 1sts, a 2nd, two 3rds in my age group) on about 6 hours a week, so it is possible to do well with less hours. The first 3rd place I had a horrible back of the pack start going straight into single track. The other 3rd was very close, I was about 4 seconds back from the photo finish for 1st. I did the first cx race of the season about a week ago and got 4th in Cat3 (passed in the last corner losing 3rd, doh!, after another bad starting position), still on about 6 hours a week. I'll be doing Cat1 mtb in the spring, trying to get up to 8 hours a week of riding, -we'll see how that goes!, -probably not quite as well! I'm self employed and have small kids, so it's tricky to find those hours.
    I do one longer ride on a weekend morning, usually about 2 hours, a 1.5-2 hour ride on Wednesday evening, and two lunch-break rides midweek of 1-1.5 hours. I get my 9 year old son out 3x a week for about an hour, but it's really an easy pace for me, so I don't think it really counts. Hopefully in a couple years I'll have a fast new training partner in my son.

    In his book, Carmichael talks about how critical it is to drink carbohydrate type drink in the 90 minutes prior to a race (the time crunched cyclist).

  16. #16
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    am i crazy or is expecting any results with less than four hours a week of riding a little crazy. now your saying you might actually get moved up to cat 1 with this amount of time on the bike, and you have only been riding 2.5 years...

    you must have been doing something else that was keeping you in pretty good shape before you started mountain biking i am guessing.

  17. #17
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    Here is my honest opinion. The sport cat I race is kind of a mixed bag. There is 3 to 5 guys that are fast....very fast. They battled all seaon and even had a mid season mandatory upgrade that didnt happen for what ever reason. This year there was no begginer class. The field wasnt very large either. Some races there was 15+ and some were only 7 at the races that were a good drive away. The 35-39 cat has double te people and on paper looks like a tight challenging cat. I dont want any misconseption about my skills lol. Most races were 22-24km and would take about 1:20-1:30 to complete. The top guy was on average 10min ahead of me.

    That being said, the top 3 move up and that leaves the slower guys move up to podiums and then a possible upgrade that I am not ready for. I want to be ready. If i come out next year feeling awesome a noticabky faster I will move up my self when allowed.

    The gist of what I am reading is longer rides to condition the legs. Judging by the burn I always have when racing I might have to push through that for a while when training in order to move forward. Mentally I am alwasy pulling back because I inow the cramps will happen if I push to hard.

    In these long rides, should they be a constant effort or are slow down periods allowed. Should the effort be easy or hard?

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by machine4321 View Post
    ...
    In these long rides, should they be a constant effort or are slow down periods allowed. Should the effort be easy or hard?
    The rides should be constant effort. Ride just before your legs begin to hurt and do your best to hold it. That burning sensation you feel when you are climbing and going hard during a race and have to back off to rest/recover...you want to be in that zone just before that happens. You can also sprint every hill just to get some kind of interval training in the ride. Make sure you get a good recovery ride the next day after these rides. Thirty minutes to an hour of slow spin riding.
    I just like riding my mountain bike.

  19. #19
    mnoutain bkie rdier
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    Quote Originally Posted by adumb View Post
    am i crazy or is expecting any results with less than four hours a week of riding a little crazy. now your saying you might actually get moved up to cat 1 with this amount of time on the bike, and you have only been riding 2.5 years...

    you must have been doing something else that was keeping you in pretty good shape before you started mountain biking i am guessing.
    No way would this fly in S. Calif. where we race....unless machine is a freak of nature...which might be the case..haha. I moved up to Cat 1 out here a while back, but after working very hard for results in Cat 2. Based on my discussions with friends who were racing or are still racing 2's, they are doing purpose-filled training rides and averaging anywhere from 6-10 hours a week on avg.

    Where do you race Machine? If the competition is legit and you are only riding a little bit and might be moved up to Cat 1, then you just might have a pro future ahead of you!

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by machine4321 View Post
    In these long rides, should they be a constant effort or are slow down periods allowed. Should the effort be easy or hard?
    On these long aerobic rides (for me), I find that the pace doesn't really matter too much and is self correcting. If you go too slow, then your butt will hurt since less force is going to the pedals and more weight will go on your butt and taint. And when you go up long hills, your pace naturally goes into the upper Tempo zone whether you like it or not.

    So I wouldn't get all anal about the pace, but definitely get anal about the ride time. On weekends I usually like to get 3 hours Saturday, and 3 hours Sunday; it doesn't always work out of course.

    I try to ride most weekdays and get 1-2 hours for each of those, with some bike commuting. If I have time and energy I may go for a 3 hour on a weekday.

    For me, for the last 10 seasons, monthly ride time (for a few consecutive months) had the strongest correlation with good performance, within a particular season. Training stimuli effects different people different ways though.
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  21. #21
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    Looking for advice for next season

    Quote Originally Posted by machine4321 View Post
    Training is maybe a ride or two a week. I try to do a longer distance then my races but I know I don't get out enough.
    If you're able to ride a bit more each week that should greatly help with conditioning and fitness.

    Probably the main thing is to look at your weekly schedule and try to find ways to fit in more riding, whether that's on the road, on a turbo trainer or even on an exercise bike in a gym. Your own bike is preferable to a gym bike but it's still better than nothing.

    "Winter miles = summer smiles"

    One way of doing this would be by doing double days training on the days where you have time available. A short ride in the morning and then another short ride in the evening perhaps. A turbo trainer is good for this as you can just hop on and go without worrying about weather or traffic.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by rydbyk View Post
    No way would this fly in S. Calif. where we race....unless machine is a freak of nature...which might be the case..haha. I moved up to Cat 1 out here a while back, but after working very hard for results in Cat 2. Based on my discussions with friends who were racing or are still racing 2's, they are doing purpose-filled training rides and averaging anywhere from 6-10 hours a week on avg.

    Where do you race Machine? If the competition is legit and you are only riding a little bit and might be moved up to Cat 1, then you just might have a pro future ahead of you!
    Not a freak by any means lol. I catch on quick but I think my cat is Pretty run of the mill. Me included. The guys that have 10min on me would be top 10 in expert mabye top 5.
    I made a joke to the leader as we started, he couldnt get clipped in and was beside me for about a min. I said "this is the longest I have seen you in a race".

    I will make an effort to get longer rides in. Before the snow flies and try to get to some spin classes or somthing over the winter.

    Big thanks for all the responces.

  23. #23
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by machine4321 View Post
    No I am not. I am trying to save some money for a road bike, my terrain does not sllow for easy long rides. If i get out for 2 hours a week, thats good for me.

    Am I right in thinking, no matter how hard I ride for that 1.5h it wont replace the 3-4h rides at an easier pace?
    I think that riding 2 hrs a week and then racing for 1.5h is the problem. Not enough in week miles/time on the bike. I think you need to train your body to ride the distance and then add speed. I get the feeling you are trying to go balls out for too long and blowing up your legs.

    Two things I would do are to get more miles/time in each week and increasing ride distance. I race on occasion and do ok when I do. I don't have the time to train properly yet I still get in more miles/hrs than you are. I try to get 2 or 3 1-hour road rides in each week and then 2 to 3 hr mtn bike ride on the weekends. This way a 2 hr race is pretty much a faster pace 2 hr weekend ride. My longest race was 3:40 min race that hurt me. I had been training with 3:30 min rides and that mean I was ok for the time and distance, but my issue was cramping (first time on the bike) . I think it was due to some unique situations on the trail and my in race decisions.

    The other thing to consider is that if your legs are giving out before your lungs drop a gear and spin faster. Higher cadence will move from muscle strength power to cardio power and put more load on heart rate. So spin faster rather than push harder and it make make you last longer.
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  25. #25
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    Machine4321,

    I looked at your last race (Provincials) and noticed that your time increased by a huge amount for the third lap. I think everyone gave the right advice, more training and longer rides are critical.

    My lap times are generally close and at the Provincials they got better with each lap although my first lap was a bit of a disaster. Anyway, my point is that if you manage to maintain lap times, you will be a completely different racer.
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  26. #26
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    Good point. I forgot to mention that I end up losig 2-3 min from my second lap. And provincals is where I felt the best! I have always envied the guys that can have laps with in 10-30 seconds o the last. Shows controll.

    On avaerage there is about 8 to 10 riders in my age cat. There has been more at times and as low as 7.

  27. #27
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    What Sport class are you in Machine? I raced the O-cups in Master Sport this year and did pretty well. I spent a fair amount of time getting miles in on the road, but I also tried to ride my mtb as much as possible to work on tech skills each ride. On average, I was 10-13hrs a week on a pedal bike, plus 1-2 crossfit sessions and riding my dirtbike once on a motocross track.

    Given that it was my first year racing O-cups, I really feel like your fitness will be shadowed by a lack of technical skills with the way the courses are (Sir Sams for example). Cramping could be training related, but Id highly suggest working on your pre/intra/post workout nutrition. The book "Paleo for Athletes" is a great start.

  28. #28
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    Sport 30-34. The tech has really increased this year, and I loved it. Alao my first year of sport. That 3rd lap is what is hurting.

  29. #29
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    Not sure what others have said so sorry if I repeat someone elses suggestions.

    I don't watch heart rate stats or anything, just compare myself to guys I've been riding with for a few years and lap times on known courses.

    For the last couple of years I've been having similar problems to you. Inconsistent lap times and cramping. This year was much better. I changed two things. I started riding hard from the parking lot on my "training" rides. I started hard as soon as I left the car and pushed it the whole time. Focusing more on not just getting miles but making sure they were hard miles hopefully somewhat close to race efforts really helped especially with the first lap during races this year. There wasn't as much of a crash in the second lap when the hard start caught up with me. The second was making a real effort to pace myself during races. I spent a lot of races playing catch up to guys that went as hard as they could from the gun but had a lot better finishes riding at my own pace and not trying to keep up. Some races I could hang and some races I caught them later in the race but by the end of the last series I raced my lap times were within 15 seconds of each other and I was full minutes faster than I had been on the same courses last year.

    Not sure if that helps at all but those things seemed to make a big difference for me. I was able to get my first two wins this season.

  30. #30
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    Looking for advice for next season

    Are you strength training as well?

  31. #31
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    Didnt see these last few posts. No I havent been strength training. Hoping the winter will change that.

    After completeing a 50km mtb/road race last weekend I have alot more insight into "pushing through the pain". I cramped up around 25km but was able to maintain my heart rate above 170 the while race. Taking gels would hel for about 20min, good thing for me I had 4 of them. Had total lock up when I had to get off the bike due to a slower ridier. Got back on the bike and had to keep pedain to keep the pain away. It was so bad after a sprint to the line to pass a rider in my group that both legs (quads, calfs and for the first time hams) totally locked up. After a short easy pedal theybwere fine and to mybsuprise, didnt hurt the next day.

    Average speed was 20.7km and finished 70th out of about 200ish. I was happy with the time.

    On a side note I have bought a norco threshold a3 for dirt cheap from a lbs. wont pick it up for a month or so, but I will promptly get out for a longer ride.

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by 7daysaweek View Post
    Not sure what others have said so sorry if I repeat someone elses suggestions.

    I don't watch heart rate stats or anything, just compare myself to guys I've been riding with for a few years and lap times on known courses.

    For the last couple of years I've been having similar problems to you. Inconsistent lap times and cramping. This year was much better. I changed two things. I started riding hard from the parking lot on my "training" rides. I started hard as soon as I left the car and pushed it the whole time. Focusing more on not just getting miles but making sure they were hard miles hopefully somewhat close to race efforts really helped especially with the first lap during races this year. There wasn't as much of a crash in the second lap when the hard start caught up with me. The second was making a real effort to pace myself during races. I spent a lot of races playing catch up to guys that went as hard as they could from the gun but had a lot better finishes riding at my own pace and not trying to keep up. Some races I could hang and some races I caught them later in the race but by the end of the last series I raced my lap times were within 15 seconds of each other and I was full minutes faster than I had been on the same courses last year.

    Not sure if that helps at all but those things seemed to make a big difference for me. I was able to get my first two wins this season.
    Good advice. I know now that I have been holding back out of fear not finishing. I had a chance to follow two riders, who are much faster then me on a trail I am familiar with. Knowing I only had to not get dropped for one lap, I rode harder for that 6 km than I have all race season. It felt good. Hr was 190 to 196 most of the lap. And I was suprised how quick I recovered after the lap. So I may have just been a pansey this year holding back. Normally I let the fast guys ride off. I wont be so affraid to try to keep up next year.

    I feel kinda silly that I held back all year when I could have been pushing past my so called "limit"

  33. #33
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    Also told by one of the fast riders to ditch the HRM when racing. I see where he is coming from.

  34. #34
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    I sometimes learn useful things from having the record from my HRM from during a race. I wear it, but leave it on "record" only.

    Not holding back during a race was one of my realizations a while ago too. In XC, it's always a distance I do frequently in training. So I have nothing to prove there. In endurance racing, I think I still need to pace myself a little, but mostly that's been about eating enough.
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  35. #35
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    The strength training will help quite a bit. +1 to ditching the hrm. When you race you know you're killing it!

  36. #36
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    Just an update for anyone that is having the same issues. After my first race this season I am happy to report NO CRAMPS!!!, well mabye one twinge near the end but it went away.

    Things I have changed:
    Riding......I have got about 800km on my cross bike and that has helped a huge amount. It is very hard to reproduce the constant pedalling that goes with road riding.

    More miles on the mountain bike, A early season trip to Brevard NC riding pretty relaxed long hills (some 2 hours of up hill) helped with muscle endurance.

    I have been eating better, completely cutting out whites and most dairy (cheese and butter stay) Starting my carb stores earlier in the week and mostly beans sweet potatoes and whole grains.

    weirdly I haven't done anything drastic to my hydration. I still think I could improve on it although I'm still forcing myself to drink during the races. I maybe get half a bottle down each lap. One thing I dont do is drink a ton of water the night before or day of. just sips. I belive I was diluting my electrolyte store by drinking to much night before.

    And probably the biggest has been a calcium/Mag zinc and potassium vitamins. Should have listened to my wife as she has been saying this from day one. I started taking them before my trip to brevard as a last ditch effort to keep up on the 3-4hour rides. I noticed the first ride out, that I was cramp free and that was being off the bike for most of the winter (brutal winter up here).

    Im averaging about 5.5h a week on pedals. My first race saw me to a deserved 4th place in a very quick cat this year (last year was abit slow). I was able to hammer up most of the climbs and in the end took of 12min from my time last year.(almost identical course). In the end I felt I should have gone harder but was lacking power while seated on the flats and long slight inclines, this is where the 3rd place put a gap on me that I couldn't close.

    Thanks for all the pointers, hopefully this can help some body else out with the same problems. I will have to see how I do in the hotter races this year as this one was pretty dam cold.

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